Editor's note: The Indiana stretch of the Ohio River Valley is one of the most toxic environments on Earth. On Nov. 24, I took a road trip to Evansville and Mount Vernon to interview John Blair, president of the environmental group Valley Watch, and Marcella Piper-Terry, an autism care provider who has collected extensive background data on her clients' environmental exposures. This story is the first in a series on autism and the Southwest Indiana environment. - sh
EVANSVILLE, IND. - John Blair readily agrees that Southwest Indiana is the perfect laboratory in which to explore the connection between industrial pollution and the increasing incidence of autism and other developmental disabilities. He has witnessed both sides of the equation in his three decades as president of the environmental group Valley Watch.
"We have distinct problems down here with neurological diseases," he says during an interview in his Evansville office on a cloudy, crisp November day. "... And we are under assault from almost every kind of toxic chemical there is."
Indiana citizens with autism are 20 percent more likely to be medicated than their counterparts are nationwide, according to an ongoing survey by the Interactive Autism Network (IAN).
One of every two Hoosiers with autism receives medication, whereas the national average is 41 percent. The disparities hold across the three main diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs):
- Autistic Disorder - 22 percent;
- Asperger's Disorder - 20 percent; and
- Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) - 22 percent.
The IAN data also show that Hoosiers spend less out of pocket caring for those on the ASD spectrum than the national average, $3,952 in Indiana versus $6,082 nationwide.
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On May 19, a group opposed to I-69 set up a tree sit along the path of planned construction, just north of Evansville. Located at the north end of the first 1.77 miles of the proposed route, the aerial occupation sits between space cleared for the highway and an off-ramp to State Road 68.
While the small stand of trees is not slated for clearing, demonstrators have anchored their lines to felled trees and debris in the route's path. The sit is composed of two platforms suspended 35 feet in the air. While two activists occupy the platforms at all times, several protesters have taken their turns in the trees. Others have rotated duties as ground support, acting as police and media liaisons, as well as supplying the sitters with food, water and other equipment.
As the aerial occupation enters its third week, it is the longest running Indiana tree sit in seven years. For an inside look at this most recent act of I-69 resistance, The Bloomington Alternative interviewed Bloomington residents Jill and Steven, who have been involved in the tree sit and just recently returned from Evansville.
Greenpeace News Release
Today, President Bush welcomed a group of economic powers to Hawaii for talks on global warming. The meeting, Greenpeace says, is a masquerade that reinforces the need for Congress to lead on global warming. Local advocates are calling on Rep. Hill to take immediate action.
Do you know where Zimbabwe is? I’ll give you a hint -- Africa, the most fucked up continent on the planet. We’ve become so desensitized to the problems of Africa because all we hear about is the famine, disease, repression, and death. That’s what’s expected of Africa.
We send our soldiers into Somalia (think Black Hawk Down) only to get our embassies blown up. It almost seems they just don’t appreciate what help we try to provide. Zimbabwe, with a total population of 12 million people, is just a speck on our radar screens. Zimbabwe’s total population is still only half as many people as are in New York City, and 25 percent of the adult population is HIV positive, with an 80 percent unemployment rate.
The economy of Wal-Mart is over 100 times bigger than the economy of Zimbabwe, and people aren’t expected to live past 40. Have I emphasized this point enough? We don’t really care too much about Africa because it’s not economically worth it.
Once again the administration of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has opted to protect the financial interests of polluters at the expense of public health. The most recent evidence was the Indiana Air Pollution Control Board’s (APCB) 11-1 vote at its Oct. 3 meeting to adopt the minimum federal Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR).